Low Carbon Pleasures and Anthropocene Art
In May of this year artist Gabo Guzzo had an installation and series of talks at Banner Repeater in London. The event, called The Geologic Turn, focused on the topic of the Anthropocene. Among other notable people there was Jan Zalaseiwicz, a UK geologist who has been writing about the Anthropocene, and made the following comments:
What we probably need are low carbon pleasures to keep us going in life and art can fulfill at least part of that because you don’t need to jet across the world to gain satisfaction in life, as well as having the basic essentials. I think that is probably not realized enough, that we can be happy sitting in our back garden with poetry or art or whatever rather than transplanting yourself for a month on the other side of the world.
It’s a case not of reducing our expectations but of modifying them so that we can simply use fewer resources. We can’t go back to the Holocene, it’s too late, it’s gone but we can slow down the rate of progress of the Anthropocene through the kinds of things you have suggested.
If you get a change, I encourage you to check out the conversation they had, which has been well documented on the Geologic Turn tumbler page, especially if you are interested in the links between art, ecology and social change. While I have to admit that much of the installation art mumbo-jumbo (see above for example) is of little interest to me–mostly because of the high level of empty artistic pretensions passing as critical thinking, it is good that artists are at least thinking about these issues.
It’s also something I have been wrestling a lot with, especially how to find the right balance between pop culture, media and the cultural politics in studying the Anthropocene. While there is no magic formula, it seems that the idea of the Anthropocene, whether we think of it as a meme, a concept, a framework, a theory or a discourse, is growing in popular culture. How to map this growing cultural discourse is part of what has been exciting about working and writing and thinking about this topic, but also part of what makes is so challenging.
I know in my own work I do a lot of drawings, trying to make sense of the Anthropocene and how I am conceptualizing it, seeing linkages and disjunctions, etc. There is a real challenge trying to think about a concept that is equal parts space and time, but at massive scales–billions of years and entire planets! You can’t get much bigger than that without going comic or intergalactic! Here’s one of the many sketches I did over the past few months trying to conceptualize how the various parts of society fit into this new Anthropocene frame.
This is just one of many posts that I suspect I will write about art and the Anthropocene, but for now, I will leave it here. And as I said, definitely check out the Geologic Turn site for more fascinating discussion on the intersections of art and the Anthropocene.
Until next time…dream big.